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Kirkland goes outside the box with Advanced Transportation Symposium

City of Kirkland - Contributed art
City of Kirkland
— image credit: Contributed art

The terms Skytran, Cybertran and Personal Rapid Transit may sound like words you would hear in a futuristic movie or read in a science fiction novel. But they are names for cutting-edge transportation technologies that leaders from Kirkland and around the region are exploring at an upcoming transportation symposium. Kirkland’s goal for the Advanced Transportation Symposium is to examine ways to meet the city’s mobility needs utilizing the Cross Kirkland Corridor within the next decade. However the technologies examined at the symposium also could be implemented along the 42-mile Eastside Rail Corridor that connects eastside communities as well as serving the last mile needs of light rail and bus riders. Transportation thinkers, planners and decision-makers have been invited to participate in the Feb. 8 Symposium. Panel discussions will feature regional transportation leaders, internationally-recognized developers of advanced transit and cities considering deployment of such systems.

“Kirkland’s mission is to create the Cross Kirkland Corridor as a world-class, sustainable multi-use transportation facility,” explains Kurt Triplett, Kirkland City Manager. “We expect to hear from traditional and modern transportation experts about what systems Kirkland might want to explore for the Corridor.”

Advanced transportation includes land-based and aerial, manually operated and automated vehicles running on tires, rail, guide way and cable. Energy efficiency and less expensive implementation costs make these systems attractive. Most are designed to carry small groups of people and to compliment larger, more traditional light rail and bus systems.  West Virginia University, operating a technology engineered by Boeing, opened its closed-loop track PRT system in 1975. The Personal Rapid Transit is a short-distance, small vehicle-focused people transporter which has improved the efficiency of students reaching classes on time so that the multiple campuses can operate as one. Officials in Greenville, South Carolina are considering Personal Rapid Transit systems for a corridor similar to Kirkland’s and will be at the Symposium to discuss their interests.

According to the Advanced Transit Association, Personal Rapid Transit systems that use driverless vehicles called podcars are typically energy-efficient, electric, elevated transit systems with many two-to-four person vehicles that work as a networked transit system. Systems that carry larger groups of people, 10-20, are known as Group Rapid Transit.

Advanced Transit Association board member and president of Personal Rapid Transit Consulting, Peter Muller, states that “In the last six months we have seen a definite uptick in the volume and quality of inquiries we are receiving regarding advanced transit. Communities all around the world are beginning to see the benefits of automated, networked transit systems which provide short waiting times and nonstop travel.” In Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the “2getthere” system features a 1 mile guide way with five stations and 13 vehicles.  London’s Heathrow Airport has an Ultra Personal Rapid Transit  system with 2.4 miles of guide way, three stations and 21 vehicles.

“We are encouraged that emerging transportation technology is being used elsewhere and Kirkland wants to explore smaller scale transit options for the Cross Kirkland Corridor as an interim means of transit, ahead of light rail service which may not occur for decades,” notes Triplett. “We seek to meet our community’s more immediate needs to connect residents to employment centers, schools, hospitals, shopping, recreation, and traditional transit hubs. Advanced systems may also be a way to link smaller hubs to light rail once it is built.”

Hosted by Google, the Advanced Transportation Symposium is sponsored by the City of Kirkland, Keller Williams Eastside, Nytec, Inc., PACE Engineering and SRM Development, LLC. Due to space limitations, participation is by invitation-only; however the panel discussions will be digitally recorded and the video file will be posted to the City’s webpage at www.kirklandwa.gov/crosskirklandcorridor for public viewing.

The Cross Kirkland Corridor is a 5.75 mile segment of the 42-mile Eastside Rail Corridor. It runs from Renton to Snohomish. The city purchased the Cross Kirkland Corridor from the Port of Seattle in April 2012. In December 2012, the King County Council purchased a 15.6-mile portion of the Eastside Rail Corridor from the Port of Seattle. In late 2013, King County created the ERC Regional Advisory Council to plan how the owners of the Eastside Rail Corridor can develop a coordinated vision for the future of the corridor.

For information about the symposium, contact Philly Hoshko, city manager’s office, at (425) 587-3013 or phoshko@kirklandwa.gov.

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